Middle-earth Enterprises, a division of The Saul Zaentz Company, owns exclusive worldwide rights to motion picture, merchandising, stage and other rights in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. In 1969 United Artists acquired the rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit from the author, Professor J.R.R. Tolkien. The Saul Zaentz Company acquired the rights from United Artists in 1976.
1937 J.R.R. Tolkien publishes The Hobbit
1954 J.R.R. Tolkien publishes The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers
1955 J.R.R. Tolkien publishes The Return of the King
1969 United Artists acquires the film, television, stage, and merchandising rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings from author J.R.R. Tolkien, who retains book publishing rights.
1973 Professor Tolkien dies 2 September
1975 United Artists distributes One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a film based on the book by Ken Kesey, co-produced by Saul Zaentz, directed by Milos Forman. 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture in 1976.
1976 The Saul Zaentz Production Company acquires film and other rights for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings from United Artists.
1977 The Saul Zaentz Company forms a d/b/a Tolkien Enterprises, renamed Middle-earth Enterprises in 2010.
1978 Saul Zaentz produces the animated film The Lord of the Rings, directed by Ralph Bakshi.
1984 Saul Zaentz produces Amadeus, directed by Milos Forman The film wins 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture 1985.
1986 Saul Zaentz co-produces The Mosquito Coast with Jerome Hellman, based upon the book by Paul Theroux directed by Peter Weir.
1988 Saul Zaentz produces The Unbearable Lightness of Being, based upon the book by Milan Kundera, directed by Philip Kaufman.
1991 Saul Zaentz produces At Play in the Fields of the Lord, based upon the book by Peter Matthiesen, directed by Hector Babenco.
1996 Saul Zaentz produces The English Patient, based upon the book by Michael Ondaatje, directed by Anthony Minghella. The film wins 9 Academy Awards including Best Picture 1997.
1997 The Saul Zaentz Company options their film rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit to Miramax Films.
1998 New Line Cinema purchases the film options for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit from Miramax.
2001 New Line Cinema releases The Fellowship of the Ring,
co-produced and directed by Peter Jackson.
2002 New Line Cinema releases The Two Towers.
2003 New Line Cinema releases The Return of the King.
2004 EA releases Battle for Middle-earth, a real time strategy game under a joint license with New Line Cinema and Tolkien Enterprises.
2005 Tolkien Enterprises enters a renewed era of licensing with the worldwide popularity of the Peter Jackson films. New Line and its parent company, Warner Brothers, release a flood of merchandise based upon film assets, under license from Tolkien Enterprises, which enters into new license agreements for merchandise based exclusively upon the Tolkien literary property, including for board games, videogames, jewelry, figurines and other collectibles.
2006 EA releases Battle for Middle-earth II videogame.
The Lord of the Rings the musical stage play premieres in Toronto, Canada. A Kevin Wallace Ltd. production under license from Tolkien Enterprises.
2007 Turbine, Inc. releases an MMO videogame based on the literary property only, The Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) under license from Tolkien Enterprises. Turbine is purchased by WB Games in 2010. LOTRO is purchased by Standing Stone Games in 2016.
The Lord of the Rings the musical stage play premieres in the West End, London under license from Tolkien Enterprises.
2010 Tolkien Enterprises changes its name to Middle-earth Enterprises.
2012 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is released by New Line Cinema a division of Warner Bros.
2013 The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug is released.
LEGO: The Lord of the Rings videogame is released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) developed by Traveler’s Tales (TT Games).
2014 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is released.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor videogame is released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) developed by Monolith Studios under joint license from New Line Cinema and Middle-earth Enterprises.
LEGO: The Hobbit videogame is released by WBIE. Developed by TT Games.
2017 Middle-earth: Shadow of War videogame is released by WBIE developed by Monolith Studios under joint license from New Line Ciinema and Middle-earth Enterprises.
Amazon Originals options LOTR TV series rights from Tolkien Estate
Athlon announces videogame license with Middle-earth Enterprises
2018 MEE moves offices
2019 Daedalic announces development of Gollum game based on literary rights
Amazon announces LOTR TV series will film in New Zealand
2021 WB Games mobile game LOTR: Rise to War released September 23.
Sophisticated Games announce collaboration with Free League on re-release of epic The One Ring RPG
Fantasy Flight Games longest running card game LOTR: The Card Game announce revised core set release
Wizards of the Coast announce LOTR: Tales of Middle-earth Magic the Gathering cards to release in 2023
2022 Amazon announces TV series title The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power to premiere September 2, 2022
WB announces War of the Rohirrim anime feature film in production and will release April 2024
Variety reports SZC assets for sale
Daedalic/Nacon’s The Lord of the Rings: Gollum single-player console game to release September 2022.